Beekeeping is an enterprise which is being practised mainly by the orchards owners and landless families residing near vicinity of the orchards. Besides producing honey and wax, they play an important role in the pollination of various crops. It has been stated that for every rupee’s worth of honey and wax produced, honey bee works worth rupees ten as a pollinator.
To fetch higher profits from this enterprise round the year availability of flowers is essential which is not possible at a single place and hence shifting of bee colonies from one place to another is essential. This, however, is not feasible by the small farm holders. To diversify the existing farming system and make the enterprise within reach of the small farm holders, a small unit of apiary with 10 boxes was initiated in March 2004 which enlarged to 20 boxes (Photo 21) in the subsequent year 2005.
Management of bees
To maintain the apiary unit following measures were adopted;
1. Artificial feeding: The bee colonies were fed with sugar syrup in the dearth period, especially in winter. The sugar syrup is prepared by dissolving 100 g of sugar in 150-200 ml of hot water, boiled and cooled. The syrup is offered in containers with their mouth covered with cloth. The bee colonies are fed on alternate days in the evening.
2. Provision of drinking water: Fresh water within a short distance of colonies was provided. Water is required to blend the food and to lower the temperature of the hives during hot weather.
3. Swarming and its prevention: The hives were examined regularly (Photo-24) every week during the swarming season, and all newly formed queen cells cut out. The beehives were kept in shade of trees to avoid direct sunshine. All care was taken to avoid over crowding in the brood chambers. To ensure a vigorous queen and minimize the swarming tendency Queen was renewed every year.
4. Round the year availability of flowers: Round the year availability of flowers is a pre-requisite to get maximum production from apiary unit. The owner of large units generally uses to shift the bee unit to other places during the periods when sufficient flower crops are not available. However, this is not feasible as well as
economic for such a small unit. Therefore, the provision of additional feeding is required. Even then crop selection in cropping sequences was made in such a manner so that availability of flowers could be maintained for a longer period
Production of honey
An average honey yield of 195 kg/year was recorded during first two harvest seasons (2004-05 and 2005-06) with a net profit of Rs.8103/year from the unit. During third year (2006-07) considerably low yield (90.5 kg) was produced. The production was badly affected because of large scale mortality of bee flies by an attack of a parasite insect Varao mite on the larvae and pupae of the bee flies damaging more than 70% of the bee colonies.
The insect attack started in June 2006 was so incidental and wide spread which not only affected production in IFS unit at PDFSR, Modipuram but more than 50% business was completely lost in most of the northern states including Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan, Himachal, Uttaranchal and western Uttar Pradesh; HINDUSTAN (Hindi) Daily edition, September,6,2006. Under all even and odds, the beekeeping was still beneficial and net returns of Rs.3815 and Rs.3717 was obtained in 2006-07 and 2007-08, respectively. The production further increased and it reached to 160 kg or more in subsequent years. The average values of different constituents in honey.
- Project Directorate for Farming System Research-ICAR